Tag Archives: vegetarian lunch ideas

Chia, Quinoa & Greens Salad

 

For an awesome, easy lunch/side dish/snack that you can take on the go or whip up without heating the kitchen on a smoldering summer day, try this salad packed with power players. This would easily be layer-able in a mason jar, to take to work or school or anywhere on the go, or throw together right out of the fridge. It also tastes good made in advance if you use hardy greens that are amenable to some marinating.

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The base of any good green salad is of course the greens. Leafy greens are the super-veggies of the plant kingdom, and it is REALLY tough to have too much. There are plenty of species whose only food is leafy greens. We should try to emulate that as much as possible.

According to author, dietitian, and nutritional educator Jill Nussinow MS, RD, “Greens are the number 1 food you can eat regularly to help increase your health” (WebMD). Leafy greens are packed with vitamins & minerals, as well as heart- and gut-healthy fiber and plant-based chemicals, many of which we haven’t even discovered yet.

Leafy greens include kale, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, romaine, spinach, arugula or rocket, swiss chard, broccoli,  cabbage, and even iceberg. Start with a big heaping handful, at least 1-2 cups.

Next up is the buzz-worthy quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quinoa was domesticated 3,000-4,000 years ago in South America. It is a psuedocereal with edible  seeds, closely related to amaranth and buckwheat.  Quinoa contains essential amino acids (which our body cannot make on its own) like lysine, as well as an exceptionally high protein content, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It is also gluten-free, making it a great “grain-like” choice for those with Celiac’s disease or a gluten intolerance.

The raw seeds have a soapy coating (called saponins) that make them unpalatable to birds. This is handy because the crops need less protection. However, that means most quinoa crops must be processed before sale for humans, so that we are able to eat it without feeling like we just licked a Dawn dish soap dispenser.

And our final power player here is the chia seeds. Chia seeds are a massive nutrition powerhouse, with just one ounce (2 tablespoons) containing 11 g of fiber, 4 g of protein, and about 100 calories while also providing about 1/3 your recommended manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. There are claims that some ancient cultures would survive solely on chia seeds in times of duress.

Chia is easy to incorporate into baking, simply sprinkle a tbsp or two into any batter, from pancakes to muffins to oatmeal. You could also try a refreshing Chia Fresca as a beverage to get some chia in your life. While a little weird at first, it is a great habit to start to get enough water every day.

And finally, we top it off with whatever fresh veggies you are partial to. Just make sure to incorporate a variety, and at least 1/2-1 cup total. A tbsp of other nuts or seeds is also a great addition. Steer clear of too-high-fat toppings like cheese, meats, or even eggs. Add spices to taste.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup julienned carrot & cucumber
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • Handful grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp vinaigrette

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Step 1: Lay down your greens. Mix in your quinoa. (To cook: mix 1 cup with 2 cups water, bring to a boil. Cover, turn off heat. Let stand 10 minutes, fluff with a fork.)

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Step 2: Add in your vegetables, sprinkle chia on top.

Step 3: Whip up a fresh, super-simple vinaigrette by mixing 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp vinegar in a bottle, then shaking. Or drizzle on 1-2 tbsp of bottled dressing.

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If you want to make a portable layered salad, add ingredients in the exact opposite order: dressing on the bottom, then hard veggies, soft veggies, quinoa & greens.

Chili & Greens Smothered Potato

 

Whether for a quick snack or a hearty, filling meal, smothered potatoes are a go-to for me. A plain potato has 150-200 calories, along with magnesium, B vitamins, and a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C. Potatoes get a bad rep mostly because they are usually served or cooked with other things that are far less healthy for you, like butter, margarine, sour cream, and cheese.

The better options for topping your tater include: greens, fresh veggies like broccoli, onion, peppers, avocado chunks, beans, salsa, corn, and of course, chili! I used my delicious vegan three-bean chili. You IMG_7594will use leftover chili, or store-bought, whatever kind you like. If you don’t have chili, looking up this recipe is silly isn’t it?

This baked potato takes mere minutes to put together, and is perfect for a portable lunch. You will need a heavy plate and utensils though, no eating while literally on the run here. It is packed with vitamins and nutrients, filling fiber, healthy fats, and staying power from protein. And it’s totally vegan! But you won’t even know the meat is missing, it’s that good.

I used homemade sauerkraut on mine, because I totally love this tangy, salty stuff. If you hate it, don’t worry about it. Not required for the experience. Sauerkraut is ridiculously easy to make, by the way, and crazy good for your digestive health. I’ll have to post on that soon…

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium baking potato
  • 2/3 cups vegan 3-bean chili
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets
  • 2-3 large kale leaves or 1/3 c spinach
  • 2-3 tbsp sauerkraut

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Step 1: Rinse well, and poke holes in the potato. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn it, and microwave another 4 minutes.

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Step 2: Cut the hot potato in half, and place on a large plate. Top with the greens, broccoli, and chili, and microwave another 1-2 minutes. Add the sauerkraut and avocado, season if needed and enjoy!

 

Chili & Greens Smothered Potato

Ingredients

  • 1 medium baking potato
  • 2/3 cups vegan 3-bean chili
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets
  • 2-3 large kale leaves or 1/3 c spinach
  • 2-3 tbsp sauerkraut

Instructions

  1. Rinse the potato well, and poke holes all around it. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn it, and microwave another 4 minutes.
  2. Cut the hot potato in half, and place on a large plate. Top with the greens, broccoli, and chili, and microwave another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the sauerkraut and avocado, season if needed and enjoy!
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Avocado Beet Wrap

 

As spring kicks into gear and temperatures climb, we start looking for lighter, cooling dishes. It’s tough to enjoy a beef stew or thick chili when it’s 95 and humid. Luckily spring and summer bring a rotating buffet of delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh produce is in a wrap. You can only have a bowl of salad so many times before it gets old. This way you can still have all the greens and good toppings but in a portable, desk-friendly format. Wraps are easily adaptable to just about any veggie or dip (such as hummus, guacamole, or sriracha ranch).

This wrap packs the healthy fats of avocado, the anti-cancer and inflammation-fighting power of beets, the hydration of cucumber and greens in one fabulous lunch. But feel free to sub in another type of green (spinach, kale, beet greens) or other veggies you have on hand. On average, you should eat about 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day, and a wrap should contain approximately 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tortilla
  • 1 whole roasted beet (4-5 slices)
  • 1/2 cucumber, skin on if organic
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 head of romaine (or 1/2 c greens)

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Step 1: Cut up your avocado, cucumber, & beets. Spread the greens on the tortilla, top with veggies. Roll up and enjoy!

 

*Some time saver tips:

  • Use canned beets for the slices
  • Pick up pre-cut cucumber from a salad bar
  • Use packaged guac instead of an avocado